Tuesday, 20 March 2012

On Alan Moore & Travis Charest's "WildC.A.T.s" #28


In a thousand-page doorstop collection of Alan Moore's finest work, WildC.A.T.s wouldn't even deserve a mention as an also-ran. But it's impossible to conceive of an Alan Moore comic that's entirely without distinction. This week's piece in The Year In Comics series over at Sequart - find it here - discusses the unavoidable smartness which underpins the often slack'n'slapdash widescreen-o-rama that's Moore's WildC.A.T.s.

It's remarkable how often today's mainstream comic-book mirrors the form of the fifteen scripts by Moore which span out the adventures of superhero knock-offs Grifter, Spartan, Zealot and co. We so often assume that the root of 2012's standard-issue, thin'n'stupid comic can be found in a corruption of Ellis and Hitch's work on The Authority matched with the fan-onanisms of the early Image book. Yet Moore's work on Wild C.A.T.s, and in particular his last half-a-year on the title, fits the bill far more precisely. His attempts to work within the default-flatulent Image style while unavoidably informing his scripts with his intellectual ambitions seems the model for the limp storytelling later adopted by far less adroit, far less inspired, and far more callow scribblers. Replace Moore's smarts with a smear or two of pretension, retain the overstretched-for-their-own-sake superheroics, and there we have it; the brave new comics world of 2012.


  
The page above, from WC#28, is perhaps the most exquisite example of storytelling in Moore's entire run on the title. It's a glorious example of a skill that's been almost entirely lost in today's mainstream, namely that of constructing a page which is appropriately composed of a sequence of widescreen horizontal panels. It's a design which also stands as Travis Charest's finest contribution to the series. Rather than simply, and simple-mindedly, presuming that the horizontal panel's always a good idea because it shares a similar frame to a modern TV, both writer and artist recognise the importance of the rule of thirds. The eye inevitably reads such an elongated panel in three sections, and here the central third of the frame is left purposefully empty. That repeatedly emphasises the lack of communication between the team-members on their space-craft's deck, accentuating how great the alienation between Lord Emp and Warblade is. At the same time, the sequence's background subtly signals how monumental and fascinating the ship's return to Earth from orbit is, meaning that the scale of the distance travelled by it is constantly being contrasted by the inability of the characters to move even an inch towards each other. Even in the presence of an experience as awe-inspiring as this, and even after all the recent disillusionment that the WildC.A.T.s have suffered, the two of them remain entirely estranged. Incredible things are happening around them, and none of them can find a single word to share.
          

 
The manipulation of time here is fantastically impressive. The abnormally broad gutters, which create the sense that the voyage down to the surface has taken far longer than a succession of four normally-divided panels would,  transmit the air of a painful, lonesome silence, of colleagues who've lost their common purpose and thereby their friendship. In that, the page's design fulfils a specific and story-furthering purpose which no other composition could. Though the composition  contains so many aspects associated with the very worst of modern-era books, from the frame-type to the cut'n'paste static figures, it's an example of the very finest comics storytelling. It even succeeds in recasting that most familiar of super-book scenes - the descent of a spacecraft to Earth - in a new and fascinating form.

Alan Moore's WildC.A.T.s contains fitful flashes of brilliance mired in page after page of Image-era storytelling sludge. But the brilliance is there, which is more than might be said for the vast majority of superhero books. In every medium, in every genre, the rule of thumb that's Sturgeon's Law always applies, and that can be true of a single run of a comic such as WildC.A.T.s as much as anything else. 90% of Moore's work on the title might well be, in Sturgeon's words, "crud", but the other 10% is inspirationally fine, and well worth the persevering for.

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38 comments:

  1. Hello, Colin. Fine article about WildC.A.T.S.

    I love this run; I thought it was a very enjoyable superhero series, full of smart ideas and heroic moments. Moore managed to humanize a bunch of forgettable characters and created, to me, one of of his best villains ever: Tao. You call it adequate, but if Geoff Johns or Bendis could be this adequate every month, I wouldn't complain about them.

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    1. Hello Miguel:- I think we share a similar attitude to AM's WildC.A.T.s. I certainly believe that, no matter what the problems of the work of AM and his collaborators, the benefits of reading the book are well worth persevering with. It's something I tried to push in the Sequart piece, namely that Moore at his least incandescent is still streets ahead of most of his fellows.

      I too share your liking - if that's the right word - for Tao, though it's Ladytron who really shines for me. The scene in which she turns to Majestic in the face of her own imminent obliteration is one of the most touching in Moore#s entire career. That it comes in the middle of one of his least inspired run of issues can't diminish that wonderful scene. But it does make me wish that AM had been able to give a little more of himself at the time. It's a mark of his genius that he can even make a property I've no time for such as WildC.A.T.s into a favourite book. And since he's made me care for several of the characters in the book, I can't help but wish they'd been brought to life by a fully engaged AM.

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  2. I was 15 back in the day when this came out and was ga-ga about Alan Moores 'WildCATS', loved Travis Charest's work. Recently reread them to find them pretty aneimic, and to find Charest didn't actually do that much, with some issues having only a small handful of Charest pages with bland Image production-line artists doing the bulk of pages. But now, looking at the Charest work it seems quite static and dead, more like single illustrations strung together rather than flowing sequential art. You can't trust memory, especially that of a young man who doesn't know any better.
    But Alan Moore, even in 'where's my cheque' mode offers up more moments and nuggets than most can ever hope to even glean. It just flows through a small few I suppose. Ladytron was great though, ironically, the part machine character had more life in her than all the other posing, scowling beefcakes/jocks/LA beach stripper characters.

    First time poster, uuum, actually not that long time a reader, keep up the decent level-headed work.

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    1. Hello Alfie:- I've about a decade on you, so my high summer of Moore was in the mid-Eighties, when AM was producing one classic Swamp Thing script after another, month after month, while also producing Superman annuals and Omega Men tie-ins. Glory it was to be young and alive ...

      I agree entirely with you about Charest's work. Looking back, what's missing is the craft of an artist who recognises that the page is more than somewhere to add one admitedly-superior back-of-a-notebook sketch next to another. The continuity, as you say, is particularly bad, with the sense of place and time seeming to often disappear from his work entirely. And yet the still page which I tried to describe above actually played to those strengths. A stopped clock and being right twice a day, etc etc ..

      And wasn't Ladytron a fantastic, joyous character, as full of life as anyone AM ever created. A Ladytron/Majestic team-up by AM would have been something ...

      Thanks for the kind words. One of the great things about blogging is getting a chance to make the acquaintance of folks here in the comments and, clicking on their name, discovering a new blog well worth the visiting. If I may, I really enjoyed your blog, and thought your Poppins v Magritte cover was a splendid thing;

      http://alfiegallagher.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/new-empress-magazine-poppins-v-magritte.html

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  3. Agreed, even pedestrian Alan Moore is better than some of the "best" in the industry today (Bendis, IMHO).

    What's sad is, a lot of this comes off as basic craft of stories. Moore can be exceptional, absolutely, but I think that he and Charest understood the basic rules of storytelling first, and then were able to manipulate them.

    I know I can sound like a broken record, but a lot of the stories and art today seem to have studied some of the work of the greats in comics, aped them as best they could, but also demonstrated that they didn't understand the basic fundamentals of craft that made those comics work.

    You point out Charest's final pages, with the wide panels that remind us of a tv screen, the need for our mind to STILL break that into three panels ( and then the nine-panel page), and what he does with the middle panel to tell a story within a story, without words (lack of communication).

    Compare that to the overuse of splash pages, heck, even the general lack of continuity from panel to panel, and it seems like today's writers and artists, no matter the property they work on, don't grasp (indeed, might not even know they exist) the fundamentals.

    It reminds me of something I read about Rob Liefeld, that he had no official art training. Back in the 90's, some people would answer criticism of Liefeld by pointing out Jack Kirby's art, and how it was just as stylized.

    The difference to me was that Kirby DID understand and demonstrate said understanding of the fundamentals. Liefeld never did. He (Liefeld) could draw dynamically, but he couldn't draw, say, an unmade bed or a coffee table. Kirby was stylized, but it grew from an understanding of anatomy, of the things around us.

    Whew! That was a long way around to go to basically agree with you :)

    I'm going to check these books out, even though I haven't touched the WildC.A.T.S. since their debut way back when. Thanks for the post!

    Take it and run,

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    1. Hello Earl: My time as a teacher taught me that there's a value to sounding, as you say, like a broken record. The great silence in the blogosphere where there ought to be a terrific hub-bub about storytelling - with some fine and notable exceptions - does concern me. There are some fundemantal points which simply aren't said enough. ('Reinforcement' is a much kinder word than the phrase 'like an old record'!)The Big Two and a great many of the indys ARE killing themselves with the wretched storytelling you refer to. I wonder if they're even aware that there's a debate about how they're going about their craft? I wonder if they'd care?

      Though I do understand that there were things which Image excelled at - enthusiasm, energy, a respect for younger readers - the storytelling in their books was usually incredibly poor, and the fact that the industry then so often copied that incompetence in the hope of raising sales has had a terrible effect on comics. The rise of the super-doodlers has done little but harm, although I know that's heresy.

      Be warned; that 90% of cvrud, relatively speaking, is there in those WildC.A.T.s books. But when the real AM shines through, it's made all the more impressive by the fact that the work as a whole isn't that fantastic. I think the collected WildC.A.T.s is, for that reason, well worth the reading.

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    2. "I wonder if they're even aware that there's a debate about how they're going about their craft? I wonder if they'd care?"

      I think this has a lot to do with this:

      "The great silence in the blogosphere where there ought to be a terrific hub-bub about storytelling - with some fine and notable exceptions - does concern me. There are some fundemantal points which simply aren't said enough"

      The simple, sad fact is that for all the whining that a lot of comics fans do about their preferred medium not being taken seriously, many of those same fans don't actually hold the comics they want to a standard that they should hold a piece of commercial art that deserves to be seen as something serious. The don't really care about craft and storytelling or the elevation of the medium, they just don't want to be made to feel bad for reading trashy pop fiction. At the end of the day, the biggest conversation starters about comics aren't "who has the greatest grasp of form?" but "which character can punch the other into oblivion first?"

      Which isn't to say that every discussion of comics has to be high-falutin' discourse. It doesn't. I can't imagine there's a comic fan alive that isn't sticking around in large part due to sentimental attachment from childhood. It's not like there's much else for them to latch on to in most cases.



      As for Alan Moore's "WildCATS," it's fun but hardly essential. Certainly not up to Moore's high bench-marks, but I enjoyed it as a fun enough romp, and I have literally zero emotional connection to the "WilCATS" and only really know who some of the characters are through there appearances in "Sleeper" and Casey/Phillips later stint on the title. And while I think Moore gave us two great characters in Tao and Ladytron, I also think that they didn't really come into their own (especially Tao) until Brubaker and Casey got their hands on them.

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    3. Hello Adam;- I think that's a fascinating point you make about comics fan and their wanting that cake as well as eating it. It's a REALLY good point. A great deal of the blogosphere wants respect but wants it on the terms that effectively come down to "Batman-hit-me-like-blood-hah!". Not feeling ashamed or looked down upon, as you say, and aspiring after any form of excellance are very different things. You've given me one of those moments where something I always believed, but never knew I held, suddenly becomes obvious. Thank you.

      But wait! Ladytron becomes an even better character? Quite seriously, I find that hard to believe, which means I have to read on. I've heard great things about the Casey WildC.A.T.s in particular. I know my local library has some old TPBs somewhere on the shelves. I shall search them out.

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    4. "You've given me one of those moments where something I always believed, but never knew I held, suddenly becomes obvious. Thank you."

      Glad to be of service :) That's how I felt when I read your recent critique of Bendis's "Avengers." It was a title that had always bugged me, but I honestly couldn't be bothered to think hard enough about it to hold a firm opinion on what about it bothered me so much. But you then put into words exactly what I always felt, but never examined enough to put into concrete terms.

      As for Ladytron becoming "better"... I wouldn't go that far. I think it's mostly that Casey's run, particularly the first part of it (before the "3.0" relaunch, which I've only read part of) is much less of a standard punch-em-up, and more of a mix of comedy and slower character bits, and also features a much smaller cast than Moore's run did. Also, it's probably worth mentioning that I actually read Casey's "WildCATS" years before I read Moore's, so this is my original introduction to the character. But I think that if you lover her here, there's absolutely no reason you won't love her there.

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    5. Hello Adam:- I've heard such good things about the Casey WildCATS, and your opinion is the clincher. If I'd've twigged that Ladytron was featured there-in, I'd've been there ages ago.

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    6. Word of warning: Casey's run begins picking up the threads of someone else's stories, so there is a bit of "starting in the middle of the story" feeling to it. But he polishes all of that off pretty quickly and tells you pretty much all you need to know, then goes on from there. And though a lot of people talk about the "3.0" reboot, Casey's tenure starts before that, so don't think that that's the beginning.


      Other than that, enjoy!

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    7. Hello Adam:- having a blog is a great business where the vast majority of comments are concerned. And having such precise and helpful advice about further reading is very much part of that. I will admit, I'd rather Casey's work had been absolutely self-contained, but then, it's always interesting noting how one writer's conception of a property compares to another's. I look forward to it.

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  4. Thank you so much for making this point! I'd been reflecting on a new customer I had the other day who wasn't into comic books until he "realized" that they were like movie storyboards. That horrified me a bit, and I started to rant about the way time moves differently across and within panels on a page (versus a series of events presented in a particular order for a movie). But his approach makes sense if you realize that this is how illustration is taught in schools. As a practical, commercial application, rather than as a form in itself.

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    1. Hello randomwords:- I find the ubiquity of the horizontal panel for no good reason at all to be thoroughly disconcerting. I find it even more disquieting to imagine that such piffle is being taught in schools, though I can well imagine that it's happening. I suppose one advantage of the horizontal panel is that the artist can do a great deal less work in mastering and applying the language of comics, although of course I doubt that that's a conscious thought in anyone's mind. It's just that the easiest way tends to be the way most followed, and if the memory that there's another route starts to fall from memory ....

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  5. Hi Colin,

    Cheers for taking the time to check out blog.

    It was a bit odd in the mid-90's seeing Moore involved with the shiny, teen thrills of Image etc but I suppose that helped get the likes of 'From Hell' out there.

    I think bringing Moore into an argument about comic writing is a bit skewed. It's like having a world of dependable Ford Escorts and pointing over at a Rolls Royce stating 'why can't you be more like that'.

    For the record, I don't really pick up many current comics, just dig out stuff that clicks with me. When I saw a lot of the creative teams/content/artwork coming through for the 'New 52' I remember thinking 'why does it seem like the staff of early 90's Image is running DC now'? My personal bias, but I loathe the scratchy emptiness of Lefield, Jim Lee etc...

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    1. Hello Alfie:- From Hell was indeed worth the worst of AM's Image product, though Voodoo and WildCATs/Spawn are Crimes Against Comics. It remains a period that's baffling in the contrast between Moore's name and some of the product he worked on, but I guess that's what happens when a man refuses to work with the Big Two and suffers a string of ill-fortune too. I find it tremendously heartening that AM can seemingly do what he likes now. Huzzah.

      I do sympathise with your point about Moore and using him to discuss other writers. Yet it's not Moore so much as the common and obvious aspects of craft that are relevant here, I think. Moore's not doing anything remarkable here, and even his biggest fans would concede that WildCATs was a superbook too far. Yet his command of the basics of craft helped even an under-powered Moore pull off some fine work in WildCATs, and that's the point, I think. What's worrying is the lack of the basics of craft in so much that we're given, and the benefit of knowing those nuts'n'bolts can be seen even in the work of a clearly at-least-partially disengaged writer. But, yes, comparing most everyone else to an AM at the top of his game is ... loading the dice just a teensy bit, I'll admit.

      I guess the New 52's love for the Image book is that it appeals to the remnant of the last period in which a significant number of people bought superhero books. The New 52 was aimed not at new readers, but lapsed ones, so why not fire the same-old at them? Well, that appears to be the reasoning, although why it's a dumb idea is, of course, obvious to all but DC and their Rump of readers.

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  6. Hi Colin,

    Firstly, thank you for another brilliant Sequart article. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your 'A Year In Comics' work over there but for some reason this article particularly stood out for me. Possibly because I felt that your passion for what the superhero genre can do - when it's done well - really shone through.

    I'd love to know if there's a set of (or just a few) stylistic ingredients that you think would help a contemporary comic to be as 'good' as possible, within the context of our current post-Image 'widescreen' era.

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    1. Hello Ed;- Your generous words are much appreciated. I must admit to feeling somewhat out of my depth for the Year In Comics pieces, which was one of the reasons for doing them in the first place. You're absolutely right to emphasise my, as you say, passion for what the superhero genre can do, and it's a passion I feel for just about genre you can mention. Oddly enough, I was thinking about that very thing while takin a break from tapping-tap-tapping on the keyboard in the garden this spring afternoon; the super-person book need not ever run out of wonderful stories to be told as long as folks are skilled and ambitious enough. And while we're waiting for the next US mainstream example of a classic to join the tradition, there's plenty of brilliance going on elsewhere.

      There is a provisional list of qualities which I worked up in an attempt to describe the type of comic which is more or less likely to break through to mainstream audiences, and I think that sums up what I think - for whatever that can be worth - the superhero ought to aspire to. It can be found at http://toobusythinkingboutcomics.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/but-there-are-conditionsthere-are-rules.html I realise you've a world of your own writing to be attending to, but please do feel free to shoot the material there down.

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  7. This has encouraged me to pick up Moore's WildCATS if I ever see a copy. Sounds like there's some interesting stuff (and that four-panel sequence is a masterpiece).

    I'm amazed less that Moore worked on this comic (nice bit of cash to fund things like From Hell) and more that Jim Lee let him do this. By the sounds of it, Moore blows up the entire WildCATS concept and cast and has a go at the Image superhero style in general - and it all stuck for Wildstorm. Letting him do all that is a pretty brave move on Lee's part (see also letting Warren Ellis kill off half of Stormwatch in an Aliens crossover and cancel that flagship title for a replacement one).

    - Charles RB

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    1. Hello Charles:- You know, replying to you makes the penny drops about Moore's WildC.A.T.s: there's a great deal about that work that's pure 2000AD. It's as if Moore decided to mix the best of his work on 2000AD with the far less disciplined material from the 1990s version of the comic. Which does make me think that the collapse in standards in the USA at the time as the same in 2000ad - with notable exceptions in each - might have been far more closely connected than I'd ever realised.

      It was a brave move on Lee's part. But perhaps, also not so brave. He'd already cut the characters loose, given them to other writers - and done so we're told with a great deal of support too - and so I imagine having AM go to work was a real bonus. Brave and not brave too; sounds like real life.

      That slaughter in Storwatch Ws BRAVE, wasn't it? And it paid off too with The Authority. A lesson that the industry hasn't always paid attention to ...

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  8. i still haven't managed to read moore's run on this, as i refuse to pay silly money for it (the number of ebay auctions i've lost on the trade would make a silly stat in itself). i can't say i have any great expectations for it, but i do wanna read it nonetheless. like you say, the chance of anything of his being totally worthless... non-existent, he just isn't capable of it.

    he's long since an expert on the portrayal of empty space... my favourite ever short story (in any medium) is the ABC warriors seven-pager "red planet blues" which is, like, 85% space or something. he picked steve dillon for the job for good reason (and i reckon also that john higgins' work on the colouring won him the *killing joke* gig for DC (and ensured that when bolland pleaded with higgins to keep it tasteful and muted, the younger artist was in no position to listen to him))

    good post anyway :)

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    1. Hello centrifuge:- The collected edition can appear and cost silly money, can't it? I finally snagged a reasonably-priced copy on Amazon recently, or thought I had, but it turned out to be a frustrating, disappointing, no-show business. I've got the older, rather fragile 2-volume tpbs of the issues, which can be found for less pennies, and they are worth reading, as you quite rightly suspect they will be.

      I can't recall ever having reading Red Planet Blues, but your description means that I really must track it down. I think I've got the recent ABC collections from the first decade, so hopefully it'll be there. I'll be quite huffy if I haven't got it after what you've written. Still, it'll be somewhere.

      Thanks for the recommendation. Good nudges are always appreciated :)

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  9. Huh. I didn't even know Alan Moore wrote Wildcats, but then...I was never a fan of Wildcats or WildC.A.T.s (is there an actual acronym there?). I don’t know what to make of Moore from those days. Was he writing this stuff on a lark? Was he just looking for a paycheck? I suspect it was something much more puerile than that.

    I haven't read all that much to say for sure, but from what I have seen, I'm left with a sneaking suspicion that still reeling from his falling out with DC Comics, an embittered Alan Moore set out on a quixotic quest to refurbish the creatively and aesthetically anemic Liefeldian DC knockoff properties to outdo DC at their own craft. Didn’t think Moore liked superheroes? Well, he’ll show you when he outshines Teen Titans, Superman, and Wonder Woman with his Youngblood, revised Supreme and revamped Glory (and WildStorm’s Promethea, I guess). Unfortunately, his relationship with Liefeld and Image also ended acrimoniously, so he didn’t get to do that much.

    All the same, in a lesser man arrogance like that would be obnoxious and hubristic in the extreme, but considering that Moore's Supreme blows 99% of Superman stories out of the water and that even the little of his Glory we see has so much Wonder Woman could learn from (but doesn’t), I’d say the moral victory goes to Moore.

    This is all baseless conjecture, of course, but wouldn’t it be funny if that were the case?

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    1. They're Wild Covert Action Teams. "Wild" was a government code for "aliens" in the WU, I think.

      - Charles RB

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    2. Hello Charles:- I've said it before, I've reason to suspect that I'll say it again; but when I win the Euro-lottery, you're hired for a wheelbarrow of cash as head of TooBusyThinking's research team.

      It won't involve much work. But the pay will be splendid.

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  10. hey colin, it's hal man... this is my blogger name. you can expect more comments to start appearing randomly throughout your blog as i familiarise myself with your work :)

    "...blues" is moore's only ABC story and THE only new story for years at the time for that legendary series; it's also AM's da capo al fine to hammerstein, after the three-part robusters series he spun out (with three diff artists) for the 2000AD annuals 1982-4; the ABC warriors story is the from the '85 annual, in fact it's the last thing in it and it really puts a very emphatic full stop at the end in more ways than one.

    i don't *think* it has ever been reprinted, so i strongly advise hitting ebay and snapping one up - the obvious caveat being that it is literally the end piece of the annual, so you risk getting a split binding on the last page; but trust me, when you've read the story you'll be glad you own it. amazing work, albeit an incredibly bleak view of humanity... must, must have been written at much the same time as the ST "pog" ish.

    dillon was always brilliant at drawing sparsely, his very first work for 2000AD stuck out at once for that very reason. used to great effect in *preacher*, the spareness of the images probably gets overdone in *ultimate avengers 3* where whole chapters can actually vanish under your fingers, with no density to the pages whatsoever (still really enjoyed the story though! see my millar comment earlier...) ... anyway... steve also draws women extremely well, something moore exploits to great effect in "bax the burner", his and dillon's robusters story from the '82 annual... it's another trait which is revisited in "...blues" but there it's more about the space, the spareness (or sparseness) again - capturing perfectly the inconceivable beauty of a planet just before it's doomed to get overrun with people (or revisiting that as well, since it's "my blue heaven" from ST all over again... sort of!)

    ps don't worry, i have in no way spoiled the story for you... the incredible paradox of this story, the reason it's my absolute favourite is cos it uses large amounts of space yet crams an astonishing conceptual and philosophical density into just seven pages (one for each warrior of course, though technically there were only six of them at the time...)

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    1. Hello Hal;- I did know it was you, having visited your blog just yesterday. I just always use the given name, since that's often how folks prefer to be referred to. However, I'm happy to be referring to you as Mr H :)

      Thanks for the guidance re: the AM story. The annuals from the 80s were produced in such numbers that they're usually not too expensive. I too enjoyed SD's work, and still do, although, as with you, I thought he was mis-cast for Ultimate Avengers and ended producing work which couldn't play to his strengths. I knew I'd be fond of his work from the first time I came across his work in the Dredd strips leading up to Blok Wars, I believe it was. It's been a long time since then.

      I was hoping to be able to grab the AM tale as I'm heading off to sleep now. Never mind. Something to look forward to!

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  11. Hello Mayowa:- I agree with about the attraction of WildCATs in general. I never had any interest in it as a book, and dropped it straight after Moore excited. Of course, I've since been advised by folks here that the Brubaker and Casey runs are well worth investigating. I guess it's always the creator and not the property.

    My understanding was that Moore was caught in a situation where he needed to pay the bills, which seems an odd thing to imagine now, at least from my perspective, but the 90s weren't as kind to him, it appears, than his work has ensured more recent times have been. He's been quoted saying that he struggled to identify what the Image audience wanted, and that he lost some of his confidence about how he ought to approach the job. (Did the Image work end badly? He came back to add a tale to WildCats#50 some 18 months after leaving the title, which suggests there was still good bloof with at least the Lee end of the company. Certainly the 1963 books led to a falling out between Moore and at least one of the artists on the book, but I hadn't heard there was a more general problem. Please do feel free to point me in the direction of a source which might help me better understand.) He seemed to have more of a sense of purpose with the Liefeld books, and they were very much based, as you say, on comics icons. And there was much to say for those books too, as you again state.

    Whether he took those books on because they were offered to him as a paying gig, or whether he asked for them is beyond me. Whatever the reason, they were good, if not top-rank, examples of Moore's super-books.

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    1. My bad. I'm mixing my Image Comics with my Awesome Comics, and I suppose it's hard to say what his relationship with the company since it folded after three years, but I remember reading this article which led me to believe there was some resentment, at least on Liefeld's side:

      http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/ill-lyteracy/rob-liefeld-shoots-on-alan-moo/

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    2. Hello Mayowa:- Oh, no "bad" at all. I wasn't challenging you, just genuinely curious about the points you were making. Thank you for the link. I read that article at the time and I don't think there's much I've ever read about comics that's made my blood boil so much. And that's saying something. It was the following which did it;

      "He markets himself as a poet, but he’s just a ruthless businessman, like everybody else, he kept wanting to more work because he just wanted to get paid"

      Because obviously poets don't want, deserve or need to be paid. It's the most stupid, nasty-minded statement.

      I know that Moore has since described his disappointment at Liefeld's artwork on the Judgement Day series. Almost 20 years later, I can testify that he'd be equally disappointed were Liefeld to collaborate with him today. The man's not learned a thing ...

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    3. Oh, and for the record, I didn't mean to sound like I wasn't a fan of WildCATs because I have great taste in my comics or anything like that. I was a kid of the 90's so believe me, I liked some stupid stuff. Actually, everything I see about it seems like stuff I would have happily eaten up between my Mortal Kombat and Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad. That's times for you, I guess.

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    4. Hello Mayowa:- I think I still like a great deal of what you and I would call "stupid stuff". As indefensible as it might be, I still think that the first 30 minutes of the original Battlestar Galactica pilot is possibly my favourite sequence of film-making ever. And I STILL feel that way.

      As David Hepworth has written, there are no guilty pleasures, there are only pleasures. Well, within the bounds of the law and such ....

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  12. sorry colin, i wasn't sure, but yes, since you mention it i am used to being addressed as cent by my friends in the blogosphere :)

    moore's supreme is one of my absolute favourites of his. i only read this stuff recently but it still irritates me that liefeld screwed up, whatever it was that happened!! there was at least three more years of work bubbling up in AM at the time, the first year was so incredibly creative that it generated its own momentum... of course he ended up channelling some of it into tom strong and some of (what was going to be) glory into promethea, but we lost youngblood altogether when, again, there was plenty of mileage in that one (brilliant minor work, perfect artist for it as well). oh, and what about *war child* which was so difficult liefeld couldn't persuade anyone to draw it... how hard did he actually try..? (then again bill sienkewicz ducked out of a moore project... and i believe it was the correct thing to do for his sanity!)

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    1. Hello Hal:- It's good to know that I'm not the only one who thought those 2 Youngblood issues were really enjoyable. Supreme regularly gets the attention, and it was often great fun, but I thought AM's Youngblood was one of the best super-team books of the decade.

      War Child I shall have to Google about. I can't recall ever hearing about it. But, as I said in the above, I've no faith that RL was in any way an appropriately engaged and supportive manager.

      Do I understand why BS ducked out of Big Numbers? Yes. Do I think it was a bad show? Indeed. We all do things we regret when younger, and gawd knows I've enough to be ashamed of to keep me worrying for the rest of my days. But BS dropping the book in that book did land AM in it. If it was necessary for his sanity, then who could argue? Perhaps the time to withdraw was long before. Perhaps we'll one day get a definitive account so I can stop jumping from one side of the argument to another and agreeing with everyone. It was wrong! It was right!

      In an alt-Earth, where the most unlikely things play out, there's been a Big Numbers in print for nigh-on two decades now. I don't want space travel, I want sideways-shunts. Ignore all the scientific and historical data we could collect. Think about the music and the comic books!

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  13. somewhere online there is a whole sub-site dedicated to moore's unfinished (or in this case unstarted) projects... but i'm not organised enough to recall where i read it :-S

    i haven't read any comments bill s. may or may not have made about why he ducked out, but i reckon it will have come to him one night while he was doing the 3rd issue, the one he completed but which never even saw print. (but the galley proofs went to auction and were available online for a while. apparently) - he will have grasped where the project was going by then and will have seen only terrifying toil ahead for him. what if those tiny splashes of colour at the beginning of the tale were to be reversed, and the final issue was expected to be, not only full colour, but panchromatic like a proper mandelbrot set..? maybe just a flicker of b&w left in one corner of one panel. and yeah, maybe his head and even his heart quailed at the decision he was about to make, but his gut will have been telling him "if you don't quit now, this guy is going to kill you". (of course i agree with you though, we have been robbed of what would possibly be the best comic of that entire decade.)

    i don't want to get into the whole liefeld thing much, the amount of verbiage which is slung that guy's way is in no way appropriate, in that it's inversely proportional to the very limited ability he has as a creator (though apparently your friend and mine mr millar does not agree with this). i have read that interview you cite above and yes, it did make me snort with derision more than once. most amazing is the fact that he actually credits himself with the lion's share of the work, since he had the balls to approach AM in the first place, but let's not pretend he had any idea how much of an alchemical transformation moore would actually be able to bring about.

    (i regard supreme as major work btw, not sure you do by the sound of it..?)

    oh yeah, and did you know, there are actually *three* issues of moore's and skroce's youngblood, not inc. the prologue i mean... awesome adventures #1 (there never was a #2) contains a slightly shorter instalment than YB#2, but still a full episode, leaving the team trapped in one of those "how on earth will they get out of that?" cliffhangers - which, alas, was never resolved :(

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  14. Hello Hal:- Actually the Lance Parkin "essential guide" to Alan Moore has a page or two on lost projects. I didn't know until I read your words, but I've taken the book down and I'll do some low-level digging.

    As for Big Numbers, Gary Mullidges biography of Moore has, I've found, a touching section on the sad times that AM went through back then. Sienkiewicz seems to have been overwhelmed by the project and personal projects, and Moore was already coping with the sad collapse of his marriage. It sounds like a tough time for all involved. I feel guilty for even the shadow of thinking that a comic could be worth that level of distress.

    I too have no desire to digress in the Liefeld debate. I've never felt the need to discuss his work in any detail, and indeed there are lots of folks who've done that so well that I don't need to. But in this case, his contempt, his sneering at Moore for wanting to be paid, and his disdain for the idea of an artist ... means that a degree of venting does tend to occur. Best move on, as you imply.

    I don't think Supreme is a major work. I feel that its theoretical aspects tend to overwhelm the narrative, though there are exceptions to that, such as the time-travel issue in which one of the LSH analogues has to be killed by his comrades. But I do think that it's smart and rewarding, and massively influential where the counter-revolution against the tidal wave of Image were concerned.

    I didn't know about the 3rd Youngblood story. The world is wonderfully full of buried treasures ...

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  15. hi colin - haha, i gotta cut back on this stuff. quite apart from anything else i finally met my match in terms of someone else with an answer for every damn thing ;-)

    i haven't read any of the books on AM - yet - though i am familiar with the parkin book, used to browse it regularly before borders died... i do a know a bit about the things that happened back then, such as "the other two" leaving him and all that - mmm. (one that whereof one cannot speak...)

    as for supreme - well, my assessment of something as major or minor work is very much based on level of ambition. in this case it applies mainly to the first year, but that's one of the cleverest things he's ever pulled off... the second year stories are a little less dense, but the constant curiosity in him still keeps coming up with great ideas (like the one you cite above). i ended up really loving the work (... which i didn't read until last year!). but that's just one of those personal things of course. something about it resonates strongly with me.

    (i do understand the liefeld venting thing of course, he's just that kind of guy isn't he...)

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  16. Hello Hal:- An answer for every damn thing? I wish :) Yours were good points, so I tottered off to do some quick research. I'm innocent!

    There's still a need for really exhaustive biography of Moore. And I've no doubt that a major artist such as the Bard Of Northampton will find himself knee-deep in such over the next decade or so. I will read 'em all.

    You know, I'm going to happily give ground on the Supreme debate. I really DID enjoy them, and that can be obscured when judging something, as I tried to, major or not. Supreme was a bright light in a dark time for the super-book, though not as dark as things are now.

    And I agree about RL too. Character is destiny etc etc

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